Sunday, December 15, 2013

Does life happen to you or do you happen to life?

Does life happen to you or do you happen to life?

I just finished Level 3 Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Training in Maya Tulum, Mexico. In fact, I am sitting in the Baltimore Airport for the second day in a row waiting for a flight back to the snowy land of Buffalo, NY. It has given me a chance to process what I have discovered before heading back into things.

Level 3, Maya Tulum, Mexico, 2013

Level Three is about you (me, us) in leadership—that is, leadership in your life and out in the world. It is a powerful training. The individuals who apply to Level 3 are often experienced certified teachers and many are yoga studio owners. The trainers are powerful yoga teachers and leaders. Oh, there are also people like me.

I was very excited to be there and I was in awe of the other people there. I was both of those things. That was my context.

As part of the training, there were teaching sessions in which the leader teachers asked participants to volunteer to teach in front of the group. They did this in order to teach or illustrate a point. Days 1 and 2- I watched- still in awe and a little (or maybe a lot) in my head about the “people like me” part.

It looked like this:

“Wow they are really brave to volunteer. I should be up there. What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t think of anything to say? Ugh. I can’t do that. I should raise my hand. Okay. They are asking for volunteers again. Raise your hand Catherine. Do it. No I can’t. I can’t do it. I am too scared. This is horrible. Why I am so afraid to try new things? Why I do I get so nervous? I am such a loser for getting so nervous. I bet those people don’t even think about these things. They just get up there. Why am I like this? Is it my parents, my childhood? Is it because I moved a lot as a kid? Perfectionism? How many years of therapy does a person need to not feel this way? What the hell is wrong with me?” ……

And on- and on- and on. Awesome right?

So, as you can imagine, throughout Days 1 and 2, I watched pretending like I wasn’t having a gigantic internal dialogue in my head.

Then, nighttime, Day 2 in my room. Thinking….

It looked like this:

“Anything you have ever done in your life involved leaning into fear. You have this. Right. That is true and right. I am volunteering tomorrow. I am going to text my husband and children, my studio owners, and put my intention on Facebook. I am going to be accountable. I am going to volunteer to teach.”

I barely slept I was so excited. I did all I said I would and more. Specifically, I also went to a couple of the leader teachers and told them I wanted to be volunteer. I told fellow participants that I was ready.

This is what happened:

Day 3- no one asked for volunteers to teach.
Day 4- no one asked for volunteers to teach.
Day 5- no one asked for volunteers to teach.

And- yeah you guessed it….

Day 6- no one asked for volunteers to teach.

Day 6 was the last day. So that was that- Or was it?

Zuri’s Story

Since Thanksgiving, Zuri’s mom, Sherece, has been on the wagon (not drinking, doing drugs, or gambling). Zuri loves these times and hates them- both at the same time. When Sherece is not drinking, it is like waiting to get punched in the stomach. Zuri was trying to explain it to her best friend Emily.

“Emily, it is really hard to explain. I am glad that mom is not drinking. But then, I am so afraid that she is going to drink that I can’t be happy. And since she always does again, I just wait for it to happen. Sometimes I even wish for it to happen so that it will just happen. It is like that.”

From Thanksgiving day to last night Zuri waited. She slept in the fetal position every night. She went to school with her jaw clenched and her stomach in knots. She struggled to eat because her stomach was full of worry.

Then last night- her mom went out to “get some cigarettes” and never came home. In fact, she still is not home. Its Sunday afternoon and she is still not home.

“There,” Zuri thought. “It is done.”

And now she sat and worried if her mom was okay.  It was right then that she realized that this is never going to stop.

You see, Zuri worries for it to happen and she worries when it does happen. Zuri is at the effect of alcoholism and drug addiction. She is a child of an alcoholic and that is who she is and that is her life. This happens to her. This happens to Zuri.

It is times like this that she goes to The Yoga Bag. There are answers there, in the yoga of it all. She flips through my notes, the classes, the quotes, the processing. She does this until words stick and she is compelled to read.

She sees it—“Are you at the effect of X or are you a cause in the matter?” Baron Baptiste. Zuri answered, “I am at the effect of alcoholism, my mom, and my worries. They run me.”

She reads my notes. I can see her as she connects to what is written. Her eyes are bright. She is awake, processing. She reads my words about worry and fear. She reads my words about wanting to choose, about wanting to act. She reads of times when I have acted, with power. She wonders what she might be a cause-in-the-matter about.

She thinks of yoga. She thinks of Miss Amanda, the yoga teacher in afterschool. She thinks more about yoga. She thinks, “I want to teach yoga.” She thinks, “If my mom and other people took yoga they wouldn’t drink so much and they would struggle less.” She thinks, “I can help my friends and others find another way to feel better. I can be the cause of what I want more of in my life.”

Zuri decided to practice right then and there. She did sun salutations, flip dogs, lunge sequences, warrior threes, eagle poses, airplane poses. Then, she stood in tree. She rooted, grounded, pressed her foot, her big toe mound into her mat (the beautiful mat Miss Amanda gave her last week as a reward for showing up 4 weeks straight). Yes! she pressed her foot into her own mat. She squeezed the outer shin of her grounded leg in toward the centerline of her body. Her legs lit up as she pulled in the skin, to the muscle, to the bone. Zui pressed the sole of her lifted foot into her thigh and her thigh into her foot. She engaged her core drawing her naval in toward her spine. Her shoulder blades hugged in to the spine. Drawing her front ribs in, she inhaled and lifted her chest and the crown of her head toward the ceiling. Without pause, her hands, all ten of her fingers reached up to the ceiling. From her grounded feet to her reaching head and fingers she felt power, electricity, a fire, run through her body. This was right. It felt exactly right.

Zuri finished practice and took a cleansing warm shower. She put on her pajamas and made her brothers some dinner. Her mom wasn’t home yet and, yeah, that sucked. But, it always sucks and she always does that and then Zuri always worries and what Zuri was starting to realize, maybe even actually realizing right now, was that her worry doesn’t make her mom come home. It has no power.

Zuri made a commitment to make the things that matter grow and, for sure, that included yoga. Zuri noticed that getting excited about learning and someday teaching yoga would actually be full of power.

Rashan, her little brother, pulled on her pajamas. He wanted her to pick him up. He wanted to curl into her. He was worried about their mom. He was scared.

It hit Zuri right then, “I can teach yoga right now. I am going to teach yoga right now.” Zuri sat Rashan down on the floor and turned off the TV. Crossed legged, they faced each other. Zuri held Rashan's hands and began to teach him to breathe. She showed him shallow breaths and then slow deep belly breathing. Zuri showed Rashan child’s pose, down dog, and three-legged dog. She showed him how to do crow. They laughed when he fell – his face right on a couch cushion. Holding hands, Zuri showed Rashan Savasana. As they opened their hearts, she sang Rashan a song, “Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be all right….” She sang the song softly and gently as Rashan breathed.

And Zuri smiled thinking, “I am a cause in this matter. I am full of power in my life.”

The Process

Baptiste Yoga is founded on commitment, courage, creativity, integrity, defined values, and a truth that sets you free (Baptiste, 2013, Baptiste yoga is a collaborative culture that is about each person being at cause in his or her life. The practice intends to empower others into greatness.

Yoga, the pathway to neurological integration, practiced within the Baptiste framework is life changing and world changing.

We all have this mandate- a default mandate or a chosen mandate- to either be at the cause of X or a cause in the matter (Baptiste, 2013, Ask yourself which you are. Just like I did in training and just like Zuri did with her mom, her life, and for Rashan.

I did not get to teach in front of the whole group, did I? Yet, choosing to be at cause in the matter, to be of my own power, changed the rest of my week from one of fear, ruminating, and reaction to one of hope, excitement, and engagement. I got exactly what I wanted and needed. Same with Zuri. Is her mom home? No. Did something powerful happen for Zuri and Rashan because she chose to be at cause? Yes.

Ask yourself this, “Does life happen to me or do I happen to life?" And if you don’t like your answer change it. Not soon, not tomorrow, right now. Just like me and Zuri, when you know better-- do better. Not think better, plan better, hope better, intend better.


I promise, you will love it. It feels amazing.

From the floor, by an outlet, in the Baltimore Airport….



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